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7 Tips for Scoring Your First Article

My first big shock in my journey into the startup world came after my roommate and I built our first product together. We pasted the link all over Facebook, tweeted it out, and told our friends and family about it. I even spent a week hand-drawing three hundred pictures to make a traditional animation commercial for our website and put it on Youtube. And after all that effort, my roommate and I were still the only ones using it a month later. That’s when it hit me –

Nobody on the Internet cares or knows about what I’m doing.

And that’s how it will always be at the onset of anything, because ours is the generation of noise. There is an incredible amount of noise on the Internet, even in a subject as specific as ‘startup.’ So how do you cut through the noise and reach your target audience? These 7 tips should help you get started.

1. Do your homework

There are a slew of blogs out there about how NOT to suck at Public Relations. is a great one, as the author is a journalist for CNET and hears pitches all the time. is another blog where contributors share their PR horror stories. has great general advice about Public Relations.

2. Do your homework

You can’t just cold call or email people and expect to siphon value from them without building a relationship and offering them value first. Before asking someone to write about you, your product, or your service, read their ‘About Me’ and find out what kinds of stories they cover. They might write about tech, but do they write about mobile apps? Do they do product reviews or write an advice column? If they can tell that you’ve read their recent work and you can spell or pronounce their name correctly, you’ll already stick out from the flack.

3. “Be the ball”

You need to think like your target market. Imagine, or better yet, ask what their problems are. Use their keywords to search for a solution, and see what blogs or news sites come up. Ideally, this is where you’d like your product or service to be talked about. Find out who writes about the topic relevant to your market and start building that relationship with them.

4. Less is more

Coming from a philosophy background, it pains me to say “less is more.” But when it comes to PR, lesser known blogs or news sites may be more likely to listen to you. You could spend a month trying to get one email response from a Lifestyles columnist at the New York Times, or you could be building relationships with all the mommy-bloggers that your target market reads and trusts.

5. Take notes

You won’t remember everything about every relationship you try to build. Use some sort of CRM tool or note-taking tool to give you that superhuman memory about everyone that you interact with. Take notes after every point of interaction, whether it be an email or a phone call. The more details you remember about your interaction with people, the more trust you can develop.

6. The ask

Don’t waste anyone’s time with fluff; the language you use talking to writers should be completely different from that which you use to market your product. Let them know what your product or service does in exactly as many words as necessary and no more. Thank them for their time and definitely don’t harass them if they don’t respond in five minutes.

7. Stop reading

This is something I struggle with all the time – I love reading about how to do things so much that I never do them! You can’t learn skills by reading facts; procedural knowledge and propositional knowledge are handled by different parts of your brain. So stop reading and start practicing. Experiment with different ideas and measure what works and what doesn’t work.

Bonus tip: Write your own publicity. Look for a blog or news source that is taking guest authored articles and see how you can help… This was a guest post written by Austin Ball.

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Moment of Clarity – Why Being in the Trough of Sorrows is a Good Thing.

“Will I be able to keep food on the table? Does my startup even have a chance at succeeding? How am I going to increase sales? Does what I’m working on actually matter?”

You encounter these sort of questions when you’re in the “Trough of Sorrows” (as Paul Graham so eloquently stated).

Being in the “Trough of Sorrows” is a good thing.

These sort of questions often stand between entrepreneurs and a full night of sleep. The questions build an uneasy tension that resides just below the surface, often concealed by a fragile ego.

There seems to be pressure in the startup community to keep a stiff upper-lip and not admit any weakness. These questions mixed with slowing sales or other obstacles can lead you right into a feeling of helplessness. You can very easily get stuck in the “Trough of Sorrows” where nothing quite seems to be working the way that it should be. It can be a ridiculously hard thing to break out of, but most entrepreneurs have had to go through it at one point or another.

The first time I experienced the trough of sorrows, I dreaded every second of it. It’s not a fun position to be in. The second time I had to go through it, I had a change of heart.

A Moment of Clarity – Breaking free

My Moment of Clarity came to me when I was at my lowest point. Sales were drying up and growth was becoming stagnant. I looked at my bank account and wrote out the tiny balance on a piece of paper. I figured out that we were going to run out of money in 6 weeks. The trough forced me to take a step back and take an objective look at our strategy. I realized I could either be depressed about the number, or let it fuel me.

You see, the trough of sorrows is a metaphorical fork in the road. You can either fold up shop or you can persevere. There is no middle ground. It’s almost refreshing to have a black and white outcome for once. If you can make it through the trough, you’ll be able to conquer any other situation. When you’re in the trough your instincts will tell you to fold, but if you’re sure of your business (after taking an honest look at it), that’s your cue to and double down. Do whatever it takes to make things work.

Since I knew exactly where we stood, I became fierce. I was determined to not let my company die. I went into overdrive and kept hustling until that tiny bank account doubled. Then it doubled again. And again. All of this happened because of my moment of clarity. I was no longer hostage to those poisonous questions and could see things clearly.

Whenever you go through your trough of sorrows, know you’re not alone (almost everyone has gone through it). Search for your moment of clarity.

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Meet Investors, Line up Customers, and Help Others – A Guide to Startup Meetups

I had the privilege of sitting down with my friend Sanjay Parekh (from Startup Riot) to discuss how to get the most of startup events. In this interview we talk about how Sanjay went from being an introvert, to a networking machine. Sanjay discusses how he was able to get his first customer (because of an event for entrepreneurs), how he got press for his startup, and built connections with investors. You can read the highlights below the video.

Guidelines to being a good attendee:

If you see someone at all the events, chances are they don’t have anything of value.

1. Know what people are working on. This lets you figure out how you might be able to help them…

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Watch what they do, not what they say

Before starting Digital Intent, my two partners and I were trying to build an “e-Harmony for jobs” at a startup in town. We put a beta put together in six weeks which allowed candidates to complete a profile and be matched with employers using an algorithm combining education, experience and skills, as well as a proprietary competency and culture model.

In our customer development interviews, employers told us that culture fit was at least as important, if not more important, than someone’s skillset and experience. This went against our initial hypotheses and our gut was screaming that this was wrong, but the feedback was consistent and overwhelming.

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TSF is looking for guest authors to help out

I’m looking to roll out some new features (better submission process for startups, iterating on our theme, improving site load time, laying down a framework that will allow us to grow more easily in the future, etc…) on TSF and I’m looking for some help from the community. I would love to be able to just focus on code for a few days and publish some quality content from our readers.

All of our guest posts would include a 2-3 sentence intro of the author, along with a link to their URL of choice (startup, personal, etc).

How do I submit an article?

The best way to submit your article is to share it with me in a Google Doc ( Please also state that the article is yours, and you give full permission for me to publish it on TSF.

Thanks for your support and I look forward to hearing from you!

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A Look Forward from 1999: Turning Google into a $2 Trillion Company

This is a guest post written by Abie Katz.

The following is heavily inspired by Charlie Munger’s talk, Turning $2 Million into $2 Trillion, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest thinkers of our time.

It is early 1999 in Palo Alto and your two friends Larry and Sergey are complaining to you how they want to go back to conducting academic research but this new project of theirs, Google, is taking up a lot of their time. They sound enthusiastic that they might be able to make half a million dollars each and improve the search results for the potential acquirer but more than anything, they don’t want to be bothered with having to run a company.

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Why You Don’t Need a Startup Genie

Let’s pretend you hit the startup lottery and Paul Graham wants to help you with your startup. Here’s the catch: Paul tells you that he will only do one thing to help startup succeed. For the purpose of this exercise think of Paul as a magical startup genie. What would you have him do?

Perhaps you need help with your sales funnel. Or maybe you’re struggling with a high level strategy. Perchance your UI is riddled with Comic Sans and you’d like his artistic eye to help redesign the front end. Find a problem that (if solved) would increase your business 10x.

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The Netflix price increase, the “Startup Playbook”, and my own hypocrisy

Last week Netflix announced that they were increasing their prices in September. A very vocal customer base took to the internet to share its displeasure with the news. Some revolting customers even threatened to cancel their subscription unless the price increase was reversed. People were simply furious at Netflix.

“It’s ridiculous” I half-heartedly complained to a friend over lunch. “Netflix is essentially removing features and then making me pay to get them back. This whole pricing fiasco feels like they are just running an experiment on us”.

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Art vs Product: The creativity motivation spectrum

Left, Zuerst die Füsse, a work of art. Center, Apple's iPhone 4, a artful product. Right, Monavie, an Acai juice MLM scheme.

Right now I’m in a weird state of my career development. I’m not riding a rocket of momentum as I have in past ventures, but instead am finding myself evaluating opportunities and work with a more measured approach. I’ve got an idea of what I’d like to do for my next startup, specifically dealing with video production, but I don’t think the ecosystem is ready. That means I’m taking some time to be an artist, rather than a producer.

Artist and Producer are two terms I’ve thought of in my head to describe a spectrum of motivation. Artists create because they have to— meaning they have some idea in their soul which they have to get out and show the world. Producers (product people), on the other hand, create something they think the world wants to have right now.

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Open forum: Who are you, anyway?

So Paul is out for a few days… the guy just made the big leap and got married. Rather than leave this space blank, I’m going to step in to rock the mic.

Just out of curiosity sake, I’d love it if you’d jump in the comments of this post and leave a comment with who you are, what you’re working on, why you read The Startup Foundry, and any other info you think we should know. We know you’re out there, so we might as well start talking one-to-another.

I’ll go first… check the comments.

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Picture of Paul

Hi, I'm Paul Hontz.

I'm a YC alumn and I love startups. I created TSF to highlight companies I find interesting. You can learn more about me here.

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